Prosecutors charged the chief nursing officer at Whidbey General Hospital last week with assaulting a patient.
Linda Gipson, 62, is facing a single count of assault in the fourth degree, a gross misdemeanor charge. The criminal charge was filed July 2 in Island County District Court.
Coupeville Marshal Rick Norrie investigated the case. In his report, he wrote that Gipson fired one of the nurses who was an alleged witness and another employee expressed fear of retaliation if she spoke out.
Whidbey General administration is standing by Gipson this week.
Hospital spokeswoman Trish Rose said in a written statement that Whidbey General conducted an internal investigation and concluded the allegations are without merit.
“Dr. Gipson has over 30 years of experience and has cared for thousands of patients,” Rose said in her written statement. “This is the first time she has ever been accused of any inappropriate behavior toward any patient.”
Because the administration believes that Gipson is innocent of any wrongdoing, she is currently on the job, according to Rose.
“Whidbey General is confident that Dr. Gipson will continue to perform her duties as chief nursing officer and her good work in support of community health,” Rose wrote. “Dr. Gipson has been active improving access to safe and quality health care as well as improving mental health services for island residents.”
Rose also said that Gipson did not technically fire a nurse in connection with the allegations.
The nurse worked for a nursing agency, not the hospital.
The Nursing Commission, which is under the state Department of Health, is also conducting an investigation.
Norrie wrote that Gipson and the hospital’s security officer first called 9-1-1 dispatch to report that an unruly patient had assaulted a nurse May 13, but Gipson herself ended up being investigated for allegedly assaulting the same patient.
Gipson claimed in her 9-1-1 call that the nurse was assaulted seven hours earlier and that the nurse was being X-rayed in the emergency room, Norrie wrote.
A few minutes after Gipson’s call, a man called 9-1-1 to report that a different nurse, later identified as Gipson, had assaulted his 30-year-old daughter, according to Norrie’s report.
Norrie investigated and spoke with the nurse who was allegedly injured in the assault. The woman said the patient had pushed her shoulder, but “did not report going to the ER at that time” and “seemed uninterested in the assault on her.”
“She did not mention getting ER treatment and did not seem upset about the incident,” Norrie wrote.
The alleged victim, two nurses and a nursing assistant provided their perspectives of the alleged assault.
The alleged victim was combative and tried to leave her room; the nurses called a “code gray” and placed her in four-point restraints on a bed, the report states.
The alleged victim claimed that Gipson “purposely” choked her. She said it hurt and she told Gipson to stop, Norrie wrote in his report.
One nurse claimed that she saw Gipson placing her hands around the restrained woman’s face. The patient said she was hurting her and told her to stop, but the nurse said that Gipson said she wouldn’t until the patient calmed down, according to the report.
The nurse told Norrie she confronted Gipson outside the room about the alleged assault. Gipson first said she was trying to clear the patient’s airway and then said she was trying to keep her from spitting, though the nurse claimed there were “no threats or other signs” that the patient was going to spit, Norrie wrote.
Later, Gipson told the nurse, “You can sign your patients off and you’re done here,” the report states.
A nursing assistant who was also in the room claimed that Gipson grabbed the woman’s neck and “tightly clenched her hand,” the marshal wrote. Gipson told the patient to calm down and the woman said Gipson was hurting her, the report states.
Another nurse who witnessed the alleged incident said Gipson squeezed the patient’s face tightly for at least one to two minutes; the nurse left the room during the incident, Norrie’s report states.
The nurse said she overheard Gipson saying that she had to “release” a nurse because she didn’t know how to handle psychiatric patients and because the nurse had threatened to report her to the state, according to Norrie’s report.
Gipson’s attorney told Norrie that she would not speak to him about the allegations made against her.
The hospital administration noted that violence against hospital staff has been on the rise nationally, and Whidbey General isn’t immune to this trend.
“Violent patients require one-on-one care and may erupt with verbal or physical assault without warning, often requiring physical intervention to protect patients and staff from harm,” Rose said in her prepared statement.
“WGH has also engaged a security firm to enhance protection efforts for staff, patients, and visitors alike.”